Oklahoma college endowments growing after recession

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — College endowments in Oklahoma and across the nation are growing again after taking a financial hit from the recession, a new study shows.

The study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers surveyed 850 colleges and affiliated foundations nationwide and found that college endowment returns rose nearly 12 percent during the 2010 fiscal year. In 2009, college endowments were down an average of 18.7 percent.

Officials at several Oklahoma universities said their endowments have continued to grow during the first half of the 2011 fiscal year.

The University of Oklahoma's endowment increased from $820,919,667 in 2009 to $961,590,118 in 2010. But that's still below the more than $1 billion reported in 2008, The Oklahoman reported.

"What a difference a year makes," said Guy Patton, president of the University of Oklahoma Foundation.

The foundation's endowment portfolio was up 16 percent during the first half of the 2011 fiscal year, Patton said.

OU's endowment funds are invested in a variety of ways, including equities, hedge funds and high-yield bonds.

Market improvements and new gifts helped Oklahoma City University's endowment value grow more than $10 million from the end of the 2010 fiscal year to the halfway point of the 2011 fiscal year, OCU Chief Financial Officer Brian Holland said.

Endowments are important for schools during tough economic times when other funding sources are being cut and stretched, said Kirk Jewell, president and chief executive officer of the Oklahoma State University Foundation.

After being down about 25 percent during the 2009 fiscal year, OSU's endowment investments increased about 10 percent in fiscal year 2010 and another 14 to 15 percent during the first half of the 2011 fiscal year, Jewell said.

"We're making good progress, but I don't think we've fully restored the loss from '08-'09," Jewell said.

Unlike many schools and foundations, the OSU Foundation doesn't tie its spending to market values. Instead, the foundation spends 5 percent of new gifts and adjusts that amount each year based on the Consumer Price Index.

While many schools reduced their endowment spending during the past few years because market values declined, the OSU Foundation was able to increase its spending slightly, providing a boost to the university during tough economic times, Jewell said.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com